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Are Boys in Crisis?


Q. It seems like everywhere you turn around, you hear that boys are having more problems with learning, and that we have to redesign our schools so that we don't lose so many of them to checking out, or dropping out, of school. Is this correct?


It may come as quite a surprise to feminists, but boys have trailed girls in most measurements of academic performance for at least two decades. Here are some statistics about boys and educational and health issues to underscore the problem.


Why has this happened? It is thought that, since most teachers are women, and women tend to be concrete thinkers, that's a clash since most boys tend to be abstract thinkers. Most women teachers tend to like classrooms that are quiet and orderly, a classroom management style that favors more compliant, obedient girls over boys. These teachers prefer neat handwriting over interesting written expression, which again may favor the fine-motor skills that girls tend to be better at, rather than the intellectual content, which boys might actually be better at expressing except for those pesky strike-throughs and erasures because of their less-developed handwriting skils.


These same sorts of teachers tend to frown on boyish good fun and smile on girlish docility and quietness, which discourages boys from classroom participation and feeling as though the teacher doesn't like them. These teachers tend to dole out worksheets that require concentration and sitting still, while most boys (and most girls, for that matter, but they seem to have better self-control in the early grades) like hands-on learning, the ability move around the classroom, "permission" to be a little messy and investigate and try things out, and the freedom to be creatively and productively distracted from time to time.


When you add the "test pressure" in recent years from new accountability requirements, which further reduces the time teachers have to be patient with boy-type behaviors, there is even less leeway in many classrooms to let "boys be boys."


Finally, this is coming out in the mainstream media.


That's the good news. The BAD news is, some feminists are consternated, worried that girl issues are going to get short shrift in funding and so forth as the attention shifts to boys. Others believe the statistics are being manipulated to create a false crisis.


For more on the point of view that there's no "boy crisis," see the report by the left-wing American Association of University Women, "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education." Also see this report from the think tank Education Sector debunking some of the statistics in major media reports on schools shortchanging boys.


Note that both of those groups are considered left-wing, and judge their conclusions accordingly.


The AAUW says its report "debunks the myth of a 'boys crisis' in education," but the study ironically fails to support that claim. It's clearly shown within the report that girls get much better grades than boys, are far more likely to graduate from college, and have better reading skills, which translates into stronger learning skills.


Put those factors together with statistics that girls are more likely to graduate than boys, with a truly enormous disparity in the genders of minority dropouts . . . and boys are far more likely than girls to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled . . . and that the vast majority of learning-disabled (such as autism and dyslexia) students are boys . . . and boys are much more likely than girls to be retarded, emotionally disturbed or schizophrenic . . . and that boys are four times more likely to attempt and commit suicide . . . and that far more boys than girls abuse drugs and alcohol and fall into gangs and criminality . . . and that boys are far more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and be put on powerful medications which can permanently alter the way the brain works.


Although more girls than boys enroll in high level math and science classes, boys do score a little better in math. However, girls' advantage in reading and writing is several times as large as that math edge.


Good schools have long since taken note of these trends, and wherever possible have tried to make boy-friendly classrooms, as described in the excellent website,


What should parents do? Read up on this situation, and do what you can to encourage your sons to be who they are, within boundaries, while you encourage your schools and your teachers to put the best interests of boys on the front burner alongside the best interests of girls.


Homework: For more on helping boys succeed in school, get one of these two excellent books: The War Against Boys by Christina Hoff Sommers, or Bringing Up Boys by Dr. James Dobson.


By Susan Darst Williams Special Learners 07 2008


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